What exactly was a codpiece and what was its purpose? The codpiece was
originally an inverted triangular section of cloth sewn into the hose
around a man's groin which would be held closed by string ties, buttons,
or other methods. The codpiece worn by the Tudors was padded and boned
and became so large that it was used to carry small weapons or jewels
hence the reference to genetalia of a man being referred to as the
"family jewels". The codpiece came into fashion during the late Middle
Ages and came into prominence during the reign of Henry VIII and
disappeared during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
and Fashion - Reason for the Codpiece
The main garment worn during the Middle Ages was the doublet
but as fashion dictated an extremely short doublet the use
of a codpiece became necessary for the sake of modesty.
Early hose were fitted to the leg similar to modern
tights but open at the crotch which resulted in the genitalia simply
loose under the doublet. The origin of
the codpiece was a small bag with a flap at the fork of the
hose which was fastened by ties.
The Tudor Codpiece
and King Henry VIII
The fashion and design of Codpieces
gradually evolved to
emphasize the male genitalia and were eventually padded and
enlarged to astounding proportions. The codpiece became
prominent during the reign of King
Henry VIII who is often associated with the codpiece and this
peculiar, over sized, item of clothing is featured in his portraits.
Codpieces retained their practical origins and doubled
"The codpiece was
exaggerated in size, the bag was puffed and slashed, and even
ornamented with jeweled pins." Boucher
in the fashion of the Tudor Codpiece
When Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne in
1558 and she dictated many of the fashions and the fashions of men became
more feminized. The codpiece became smaller, with less bombast
(padding). The Tudor codpiece fashion slowly declined and completely
disappeared by the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth in 1603.
The Tudor codpiece was replaced by a vertical opening which was concealed in folds of
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